Part 1: Making some WoW videos. Part 2: Let’s talk MMOs for a second.

Late night weekend update for the blog but I want to squeeze this in before I get too busy. I made a video last night while playing WoW that I wanted to share. I’ve started to notice a theme from some of you surrounding a line of questioning: Do you still play MMOs? Yes, I do. I play World of Warcraft very, very casually.

Since I enjoy making videos about the games I’m playing, I decided to include WoW and start a series showcasing why and how I am having fun back in the MMO I thought I quit a dozen times.

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Now let’s chat about part 2 of this little question here. What’s with the state of the MMO industry? If you’re currently playing a handful of MMOs and you’re one of those people who can enjoy GW2 and SWTOR and ArcheAge and WildStar and you never quite understood why the population in those games was dismally low and the servers were merged then this isn’t going to be an answer you’ll comprehend. The MMO industry sucks in 2015, the talent is drying up worse than the reservoirs in California, and most simply aren’t worth the digital space they’re taking up on those MMO news sites desperate for page views.

I certainly do not enjoy them, so I don’t play them. There are a couple… maybe as many as 3… MMOs on the distant horizon worth even thinking about, but I have trouble getting excited right now. I think Camelot Unchained has the most potential for anything related to PvP. They just announced like a bazillion classes would be in the game, and I’ll write something on that soon.  Crowfall … let’s just say I have my “I told you so” post already written. Yeah, that sums it up.

If you use the term correctly, then yes I am jaded. I am tired, bored, and lacking enthusiasm. If you’re using the term incorrectly, you’re probably going to reply with something like, “Well you’re just jaded, Keen!” As if I’m wrong for feeling this way. I refer you to the correct definition. Some people like to call other people jaded as though there is something wrong with those people and the way they see something is inaccurate. I’m being pretty darn upfront here and stating that I’m bored outa my mind with MMOs and can’t find more than a shred of hope for them to improve. If you can give me a reason, I’ll be more than happy to hype it up and show some enthusiasm.

I’d much rather play a ton of fun games out there that aren’t MMOs than sit around and hate “gaming” because MMOs are currently awful. I’m having an awesome time gaming in 2015, and it’s because I got tired of waiting and moved on. Does that mean I won’t play MMOs anymore? Heck no. MMOs are my favorite games. I’m just waiting until they deserve it again, and by waiting I mean playing lots of awesome games.

  • I know this isn’t on topic, but have you ever played FPS with any regularity? I can’t remember you ever blogging about one…

    But the reason I ask is Star Wars Battlefront (A close cousin of the Battlefield Series, but with Star Wars obviously) is releasing in November, but has a week of open beta coming up at the start of October. May be something fun to blog about.

    I actually still play Battlefield 4 regularly with a close friend, and that is the next game on our radar. Hardline was a bit of a let down, but we are hoping Storm Troopers and AT-AT Walkers will be a fun spin on the Battlefield franchise.

  • You know that I’m one of the people you list as still enjoying MMOs so you can parse my response from that perspective. From my perspective as someone who discovered your blog around seven years ago, about the time you were excited for Aion, I have never seen you enjoy an MMORPG in the way you frequently talk about yourself enjoying one.

    When I first started reading K&G you didn’t have a reputation of being “jaded” at all. You had the reputation of being over-excited for new MMOs – almost too enthusiastic if anything. As time went on every one of those MMOs failed to meet your expectations and you moved from enthusiasm to disappointment to disdain with all of them.

    After a while your enthusiasm began to dissipate and you began to talk a lot more about the past and how great it was. You made a number of attempts to revisit that past on P99 and other retro projects but although your reportage from those experiences was usually full of the old enthusiasm you didn’t actually bed down and play long-term, for years, in any of them.

    If you except the few years of early-to-mid-period WoW, which was a cultural phenomenon way beyond anything ever experienced by the genre before or since and which, generally, is unhelpful as a benchmark for most discussions on what constitute “success” in the field, the last time you played an MMORPG that was the kind of MMO you admire and respect must have been DAOC. That was over a decade ago.

    Firstly, that’s a very long time. How much, culturally, is 2015 like 2002? It’s not even much like 2006. Time moves on. Everything changes. MMORPGs don’t get a pass on that.

    Secondly, your comments on populations. When you say the populations in current MMOs are “dismally low”, what evidence do you have for that and what scale are you using? Again, the first half-decade of WoW is not a helpful marker. In the period you always refer back to, when EverQuest was the market leader in the west, it had, at peak, fewer than half a million subscribers. DAOC had fewer than that, maybe half as many.

    Unless you have authoritative figures to the contrary, it’s as likely as not that quite a few current MMOs have active playerbases numbered in six figures. Some estimates give FFXIV seven figures. Without any hard numbers, though, one thing we can say is that the vast majority of MMORPGs that have been popular in the West are still running, still adding content and still growing. Unless you assume some kind of “The Producers” scenario you’d surely have to conclude that they make money for the people who own them.

    If the games are profitable and players are enjoying them what more can you expect? I would suggest that far, far more people are enjoying them than you allow. I’m sure you’re familiar with the Filter Bubble Effect; in running a popular blog you will tend to attract reader and commenters who share your views and echo them back to you. Most people who disagree strongly will, over time, drift away, so that effect will strengthen.

    Personally, I am almost only interested in MMOs. I rarely (very rarely indeed) play any other type of video game. Not only do I not consider myself a “gamer” in the sense of “person who identifies culturally as a player of video-games” I don’t much like or play any games, period – not board games, card games, anything. I love MMORPGs and that’s about it as far as gaming goes and from my perspective the genre just gets better and better year on year.

    I feel fantastically well served and entertained and, as I often remark, the overwhelming problem is the sheer impossibility of playing more than a handful of the great MMORPGs on offer to any meaningful degree. You quite often used to talk about the “niche” future of MMOs. Exempting WoW, I would say MMOs have always been a niche, specialist interest, where a niche represents, at best, a six figure audience per game. That’s where we are now and it’s a good place for those of us who are comfortable in that niche.

    Unless some new cultural or technological innovation, maybe real, working VR for example, creates the opportunity for another zeitgeist moment like the one WoW exploited so spectacularly, for the 99.99+% of the rest of the world MORPGs are an utter irrelevance and probably always will be. Which is fine by me so long as there are enough of us trufans left to keep the niche alive. And, speaking as someone who literally had to push his way into work yesterday through streets crowded with bell-jingling morris dancers by the many hundreds (yes, really) I have every confidence the genre has a long and prosperous life to come. Once invented almost no cultural niche ever goes away.

  • @Rawblin: Yep, I play and have played FPS games quite often. I’ve even written about my excitement for Battlefront. I logged something like 500 hours in cod4 and 250 in modern warfare. I’ll definitely be playing Battlefront!

    @Bhagpuss: I’m on my phone and horrible at using it to type so I’ll write something more later. I really want to touch on niche va failure vs success and how it all relates to what I’m talking about.

  • It’s our age and experience, Keen. You can’t expect the same formula to work year after year after year for a given individual. MMOs of 2015 may be perfectly fine for the newcomer. To a child, everything is new and awesome. To a teenager, everything sucks. To a geezer, fuck it, let’s just go fishing. I feel like a geezer (that’s a technical term, btw) with MMOs. I don’t play them anymore. I play single player strategy / RPG games that have an active online community. I aim to challenge myself and share those challenges, while learning new strategies with the community, but I don’t play WITH the community.

    I will try Camelot Unchained, but that’s probably about it for MMOs. Maybe EQ2 once the progression server makes it to Kingdom of Sky.

  • Well. I pretty much agree with you. Bhagpuss also had some great points about the direction this blog has taken – you did used to be a shameless mmo fanboy – but I really have no idea why he still likes them. Enjoy the Disney stuff.

  • Me too Keen, I love the MMO Universes, but the gameplay of the genre is so stale.

    I think handheld devices have enough computing power to now be able to support the necessary mechanics. A developer could design an MMO game on the handheld platform to support character creation, questing, maps/worlds, monsters, dungeons, combat (see Hearthstone for a mechanics model) treasure, guilds, story and character progression and group play. Hell, Blizzard already has all the tools (LFG, Hearthstone, the Armory etc…), they just need to combine them all and make the game.

    The genre has always been the classic D&D model on whatever modern technology allows. Adventuring, questing, dungeons, treasure, character progression and community – that core gameplay has no dependence on desktop PCs. Throw away the current MMO model, get back to the basics and port it to the technology everyone is using.

    I’d sure as hell play it.

  • @Bhagpuss: I think I have written a great deal about how much I have enjoyed MMOs that I have actively played over the past 7 years. But you are correct that most of my MMO enjoyment was had from 1998-2005. Sadly, this blog started in 2007 — AFTER the greatest of my MMO years.

    You are correct about the progression I’ve taken over the years. I went from “OMG new MMO! All aboard the hype train!” to “Alright, X MMO is coming out. Let’s evaluate this game based on its design elements and determine whether or not its even getting excited about.” To me, that’s the progression from 22 year old to 30 year old, and the progression of covering and playing so many games all the while having my thoughts here available to the entire world.

    When I speak of populations falling, I mostly refer to “AAA” blockbuster launches like SWTOR or high-profile launches like GW2. They launch with huge numbers but then within a month to 3 months (3 monther) they lose over 90% of those players. That is common knowledge. Does this mean they fail? I’ll leave that open to each of our own personal interpretations of what it means to fail, but I see it as a failure if a game fails to retain the vast majority of players who were willing to actually play. Whether or not its a financial success is irrelevant to my take on a ‘good game’ or a ‘failure’.

    Games like FFXIV are fun. I played it. I liked it. I got bored after being max level and not wanting to gear grind. Other than gear grinding, FFXIV (at the time I played) offered me very little. I see FFXIV like EVE. Good game? I’d say so. I rarely knock on FFXIV like I do SWTOR or GW2. It’s just not for me.

    Your introduction of the niche topic is important. Yes, the future of MMOS is that of niche status. The number of players will shrink until we get a great game that is capable of retaining most people who try it out. That’s how the industry started. Games would come out and attracts tens to hundreds of thousands of players and actually retain them. The games were great.

    I too see a long future ahead for MMOs, especially if they can continue to shrink until we have nothing left but talented and passionate developers making the games people like me and you want to play. For now, however, I’m simply not happy with what’s out there. I’d say the majority share my point of view.

    @Lokked: For me it’s simply an issue of whether or not something is fun. MMOs? For the most part, simply not fun. GW2 isn’t fun. SWTOR isn’t fun. ArcheAge isn’t fun. EQ progression server was absolutely botched by Daybreak, but the game is fun. WoW is actually pretty fun. Lots of non-MMO games are fun. So there you have it.

    @Baa Baa Black Sheep: I am still an MMO fanboy. I am obsessed with, and love, MMORPGs. They are my absolute favorite type of game. That hasn’t changed. What I learned over the last 8 years was how not to force myself into liking or getting excited about EVERY MMORPG. I’m learning, still learning, the skill of being able to say, “That is not for me. I do not want that.” I didn’t have that skill before.

    The blog has, since its inception in 2007, been a GAMING Blog. Not a MMO blog. It has always been about the games we play. Our little tagline has been that we bring our readers our latest PC/Console views, MMO Adventures, and more from a unique and refreshing perspective. Yes, for years our posts covered MMOs. Why? 2007-2013’ish was absolutely saturated with MAJOR launches (most major flops) and that garnered coverage.

    We’ll continue to write about great games, MMO or not. 🙂

    @Madi: Well said, I agree. 🙂

  • I quit WoW in March when my guild fell apart in March. Last month your WoW posts made me resub, and I’m back doing somewhat casual raiding (2 nights a week heroic).

    My ultimate MMO I’m pretty sure is very similar to yours, something Everquesty or even Vanilla WoWy – but I’ve sort of resigned myself to the fact that it isn’t coming. I’ve started looking at new WoW as a different game than the original. I play it more like a co-op RPG than an MMORPG… and that’s fine. I have friends that act like I should apologize for playing WoW now, like I’m betraying the greatness that was vanilla WoW. F those guys. I’m having a great time.

  • Blade and Soul looks like it has some potential to be pretty good. Its already a well established mmo being brought to the west…. Thoughts keen? Besides that.. I am playing CS:GO and waiting for Overwatch.

  • @Grant:

    The devs have a sense of humor, such as the cat minion’s special attack, “If I fits, I sits”.

  • “I’d much rather play a ton of fun games out there that aren’t MMOs than sit around and hate “gaming” because MMOs are currently awful. I’m having an awesome time gaming in 2015, and it’s because I got tired of waiting and moved on. Does that mean I won’t play MMOs anymore? Heck no. MMOs are my favorite games. I’m just waiting until they deserve it again, and by waiting I mean playing lots of awesome games.”

    Hoping more people read those words and it sinks in. Whining about how one thing isn’t living up to their expectations just detracts from the time they can spend enjoying something else until their main game gets back on track.

  • @Jenks: Having fun is all that matters. If you love WoW, right on! I’m enjoying my casual trek through the story.

    @Grant: I’ll be candid by saying I really do not enjoy the games with a huge eastern influence. B&S wasn’t appealing already, and they’d have to make some massive changes to make me want to play a westernized version. I haven’t seen any indicators of that.

    @Loktofeit: Good to see you again Loktofeit. Yeah, I lost years of enjoyment sitting around playing games that weren’t fun simply because I felt like I had to play MMOs. Then I lost several more years moping about and bemoaning the current state of MMOs. I regret having lost years of great games, which is why I’m currently having so much fun playing releases from that era as well as newer releases that aren’t MMOs.

  • “Crowfall … let’s just say I have my “I told you so” post already written. Yeah, that sums it up.”

    Promise to make that post public regardless of what happens to Crowfall?

    Beyond that, mostly agree (though FFXIV is vanilla WoW in 2015 in terms of playing something fun that works), though IMO CU has the best-case scenario of “RvR-only DAOC”, which to me will at best be fun for a few months, while Crowfall has the potential to actual feel like something different that still makes sense (short 1-3 month bursts, win/lose, always progress long-term) as an MMO.

    For me surprisingly mobile games have filled the MMO space. Between guilds in CoC and BB, I get the large-group social thing, plus long-term progression, as well as a mix of high-end PvP (CoC) and raid-like PvE (BB).

  • @SynCaine: I promise to make all of my thoughts on Crowfall public. Bookmark this post. 😛

    I really like BB. Played for months and months. CoC, for whatever reason, never really resonated with me. Overall though, I play mobile games a ton. I do most of that while out of the house, though.